Best Mariner Not Named Felix

Michael Pineda

Yes, he's a rookie. And baseball history is littered with one-year wonders. But Michael Pineda is something special. First, he's huge--6 feet 7 and a solid 260 pounds, with room to grow. And his raw numbers--133 strikeouts in 130 innings, a .205 opponents' batting average (through July)--speak of stardom. Remarkably, he's doing it all with just two pitches: a four-seam fastball that can reach 100 mph and a slider that dives across the plate in the mid-80s. His changeup? It's a work in progress. The ease with which he throws with such velocity and accuracy (nearly 70 percent of his fastballs for strikes) is matched only by his pitches' late movement as they miss bats and explode into Miguel Olivo's glove. But the most impressive thing about the 22-year-old, right-handed Dominican is his preternaturally calm demeanor on the mound. Cap slightly askew, flashing a boyish grin, he never seems fazed or rattled, no matter the situation. A bargain this season at $414,000, he's under club control for five more years, but the Mariners should consider signing him to a long-term deal, locking in a top of the rotation that could rival any in the American League. MICHAEL MAHONEY

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